A new era of agricultural renaissance begins
It's a significant budget in India's agricultural history because it addresses some of the key issues facing our small and marginal farmers today. So far, we had an uncoordinated and piecemeal approach to this big problem, but P Chidambaram has addressed it in a holistic manner now. For example, the debt waiver and one-time settlement is an important step for the revival of agricultural sector. Our name is in the mud today. We are called a country of farmer suicides and not Green Revolution. That is why I think Chidambaram has taken a very bold step to put small and marginal farmers back on the track. They were thrown out of the credit system so far. So this is a very important step. There is still a problem, though. According to the Economic Survey, nearly 42% of the debt is not from institutional sources. About 49% farmers are indebted, including 60% marginal farmers. Out of them 42% have taken money from moneylenders, traders and relatives. This waiver does not cover them, so you still have a problem at hand. Until our credit system and insurance systems are further improved, people will be still forced to go to moneylenders because our support is not holistic. If a farmer has committed suicide, his family might need money to pay for the doctor's fee and medicines. So they require consolidated support, and not fragmented support. This debt waiver is a good beginning for them. I think those farmers who are not covered under this scheme and have taken loans from moneylenders should be given smart cards by state governments with the help of the Central government. These smart cards should entitle them to inputs like seeds and fertilisers. It means if we can't waive their loans because of lack of verification, they can still get help for farming because they have some land. Now the second important malady of the Indian agriculture as diagnosed by the Economic Survey is the degeneration of natural resources. Chidambaram has mentioned that we must strengthen our soil testing laboratories. He has provided more funds and mobile testing soil vans. He has accelerated irrigation projects and is going to offer new national irrigation finance. Another very important budgetary provision is pricing of fertiliser on nutrient basis, not just on NPK. Plants need 14 nutrients. Therefore, he is providing subsidy on nutrients and not only on fertilisers on an experimental bases in Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Thereby, he has taken a few steps to overcome the problem of natural resource degeneration. Thirdly, schemes on rural growth, rural education, communication and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will cover all the rural districts of India, which can be a very important source of income generation for the whole country. So all in all, I would say that a very serious beginning has been made to end the era of farmer suicides and to begin a new era of agricultural renaissance. There are also many other older schemes in places. All these schemes should work in convergence and synergy. They should not work in isolation. Now I think people have been awakened. The fact remains the approach to food security must be pan political because all of us need food.